Packing was complete three days before TOMRV. It involved a comprehensive checklist of 65 items, from gloves to knee warmers to arm warmers to first aid kit and even ear plugs (necessary to thwart the sonorous snoring of my teammates). Yes, the list included a bike and 2 wheels--wheels safely and sensibly stowed in a lovely HED wheelbag.
My buddy, Mike Kosobucki, arrives to pick me up in Madison on Friday before TOMRV. He throws my things in the car. I snug my precious Madone a/k/a “Pearl” onto his bike rack.
My checklist shows 65 checkmarks. Basking in my D-Day-like strategic planning and execution, I smugly ask Mike whether he has remembered earplugs, shower flip-flops and an extra towel. He hasn’t, so I get some from the house.
Five hours later, we arrive at the sprawling Scott College campus. It’s 8:30pm. The campus is bathed in sunset pink and orange. We ride at 6am the next morning.
For a few preciously brief moments, I take in the sunset, greet friends on our “Spoketacular” green polka dot squad. And for those precious few moments, I do not suffer from an aching pit in the stomach, a panicked realization that I am a great fool, and an awareness that all of the city’s bike shops are closed.
Then, with a jolt, I realize I am a great fool, feel a god-awful stone in my stomach and have the panicked realization that all of the city’s bike shops are closed. My lovely wheelbag was simply left at the curb in front of my house. I have 63/65 items. I curse the blood stained heavens over the blighted Scott campus.
My friend Ray looks on calmly, recognizing the palpable sadness, shame and humiliation rising in my face. But he doesn’t say “You idiot; you’re going to camp all weekend at Scott College; you’re going to spend the next 48 hours alternately sleeping in Mike’s Honda and trying to avoid being picked up by campus security for public urination.”
Instead, Ray says, “Ok, let’s get you some wheels. You call bike shops and I’ll ask around.” He turns around. The closest person, standing some five feet away working on a TOMRV banner, is Mr. Joe Jamison. A faint circular glow surrounds his face in the near darkness.
“My buddy forgot his wheels. We’d appreciate any suggestions or ideas,” says Ray. Mr. Jamison pauses, seems to think a second or two. And he doesn’t say, “You’re kidding me; that grown man and father of two forgot the two round things that make his bicycle roll?!” Instead, he says, “Well sure. . . I have some wheels. It’ll take me a couple hours, but I’ll drop them at your tent.” I hug Mr. Jamison.
We go to dinner. My shame and humiliation and sadness have been rolled back. I’m now feeling a sense of overwhelming gratitude and awe. But I can’t help wonder about the wheels. Will they be wooden? Will they be round? Will they be so expensive that I’ll be terrified to ride them? And who do you know who would loan their road wheels to a stranger?! Will he demand my first-born?
We come back from dinner. It’s dark, but I can make out the characteristic silver sheen of wheels set outside of our tent. We all run over. I break out my iPhone light. The tiny light illuminates not an Amish buggy wheel but a gorgeous Mavic Kysirium wheelset. A simple note is attached: “Joe Jamison” with a phone number.
We put the wheels on the Pearl. Pearl likes the wheels. The shifting is flawless. The bearings are smooth; I’ll spend the next two days outrolling my teammates and winning our sprint competition.
On arrival after our ride, I dismount the bike, pull my phone from my pocket and immediately call Mr. Jamison. I thank him profusely and ask what kind of scotch, craft beer or precious metals he desires. He balks. “Just pass it forward,” he says. “I’m so glad you had a good ride.”
I tell Joe that I’m astonished at and grateful for his kindness and generosity. As far as I’m concerned, he’s worked miracles. And now, as I write this a couple weeks post-TOMRV, I think I know how we ended up with a miraculous tailwind both days. It was Joe. Thanks so much, Joe Jamison. I love you, man.